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Test Driving Cafe Deco - a Bloomsbury delight of thoughtful cooking

roomLooking in at Cafe Deco, just a short walk from Tottenham Court Road

So what do we need to know about Cafe Deco?

This unassuming Bloomsbury spot is a collaboration project between chef Anna Tobias and the 40 Maltby Street team. Tobias was previously at Rochelle Canteen and the River Cafe so anticipation for her first solo venture was immense. It opened relatively quietly in late 2020, serving up takeaway lunches in the lockdown before opening up to rave notices later in the year. Since then it's been building up a strong reputation, so we felt we were overdue a visit. 

Why now?

January's always a good month to catch up on visiting places you mightn't have gotten around to trying over the past year. We'd somehow missed sorting out a trip here, so it was definitely time to right that wrong. Plus, we'd been lured in by Instagrammer Felicity Spector's numerous photos of lunch at the place - we weren't surprised in the slightest to find her ensconced here when we arrived.

Where is it?

You'll find it on the corner of Store Street and Gower Street in the heart of Bloomsbury. As a result, it seems to be a popular spot with well-heeled students, doctors from UCH and foodies from across town. The nearest tube is Goodge Street but Russell Square's close too.

Where should we meet friends for a drink first?

We spotted a rather lovely looking wine bar, Amelie's Wine House, just a few doors down on the same street which opened last summer. As bookings at Cafe Deco are for two-hour slots this would be a nice place to head afterwards.

roomThe front room (we were tucked in around the side)

And where's a good place to sit?

The smallish restaurant is split into a mixture of high top, counter dining and tables dotted around. There's also a smaller dining room at the back with a handful of tables in there and more seating downstairs by the kitchen - it's deceptively large inside. There's outside dining too with a small terrace upfront. Our best bet for a table would be to try and grab/book something in the front room if you can. 

What can we expect from the menu?

It's an eclectic, regularly changing menu of snacks and larger plates. In the past, the term "brown food" has been used do describe Anna's cooking (a term which can often be boiled down to comfort food) but that seems way too simplistic. Essentially the team here are taking the seasonal produce of the week and are continually rewriting the menu. Pies and puddings seem to be a mainstay but it's worth noting that even the week after we visited, the menu has completely changed again. So it's definitely going to reward repeat visits. 

With that in mind - here's what was on offer when we visited:

roomCauliflower cheese croquette (£1.80) - the perfect croquette consistency - crisp outside, properly gooey within and served with the best brown sauce.

roomSmoked cod's roe on toast with boiled egg and cress (£10) - beautifully presented, and everything we love in one perfect snack. Top tier toast action.

roomArtichoke, potato and parsley salad (£11) - there are always plenty of veggie options on the menu here. 

roomPumpkin, potato and cheddar pie (£16) - as mentioned, there always seems to be a pie on, and this was up there with the best. Great pastry and a just a gorgeous layered pie. 

roomConfit duck leg and braised red cabbage (£22.50) - served still spitting from the oven, this was a great winter warmer of a dish.

Room for dessert?

It's definitely worth keeping something back for dessert. We'd gone a bit heavy on the carbs and could only manage one - even though we really fancied the sticky date pudding too. Luckily Felicity showed us what we'd missed out on with this cracking shot of it.

What we did have was this:

roomCreme Caramel (£7.50) - which was a perfect joy of a dessert, lovely burnt top and a faint citrus note.

What about the drink?

As the restaurant is a collaboration with the people behind 40 Maltby Street, it's certainly worth paying special attention to the wine list which has a similar breadth to the Bermondsey wine bar and the same sole focus on non-intervention wines. Bottle-wise, prices start around the £30 mark.

This being an early attempt at Dry January (or, more honestly "not quite as mad on the drink January") we restrained ourselves to just one small glass of wine each - of which the organic sauvignon from Jerome Jouret was a particular treat at £8 for 125ml.

Overall thoughts

Having had a pretty quiet December, our visit to Cafe Deco was an excellent way to kickstart 2022. Every dish we had here might have soundd simple from its description on the menu but was anything but by the time it ended up on the plate. Here, you're enjoying some of London's best modern cooking at reasonable prices which is exactly the kind of thing we want to see more of. Very highly recommended.

 

More about Café Deco

Where is it? 43 Store Street, London WC1E 7DB

Find out moreVisit their website or follow them on Instagram @cafe_deco_bloomsbury

 

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